Christopher Hayes | The Nation

Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

A Free Trade Thought Experiment

Imagine a country where CEO's live in fear. In just the past five years, 400 CEO's -- from manufacturing, banking, real estate -- have been shot down in cold blood. (Thousands over the past 15 years.) Almost none of these murders have been solved. Indeed, over the past five years the percentage of CEO murders simply brought to trial has declined from 30% to zero. CEO's now more or less live in fear.

Can you imagine the US have friendly relations with such a place? Can you imagine a president expending political capital to treat that country favorably in an international agreement? Right. Of course not.

Of course, such a place does exist, but they're not murdering CEO's.

Friday Capitol Letter

In the House...This week, a global AIDS bill authorizing $50 billion over five years secured passage by a 308-116 vote. The White House endorsed the legislation (somewhat tepidly, given how it authorizes $20 billion more than the President requested); the bill now moves to the Senate. Less than three weeks after the Senate rejected a similar ban by a 71-29 vote, on Wednesday, an effort to force consideration of an earmark moratorium failed. And in a rather embarrassing development for the GOP--which aggressively pushed the election-season measure--out of a tally of Congressional earmarkers subsequently released, Republicans topped the list. In other moves, the House also voted to speed up the visa approval process for foreign artists and entertainers and reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration.

In the Senate...On Tuesday, Sens. Reid and McConnell jointly promised across-the-aisle cooperation to address the housing crisis's "core issues" and help families avoid foreclosure. Yet the plan--announced Wednesday--abandons the Dems-backed provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages (killed yesterday by a 58-36 vote) and cuts in half proposed foreclosure counseling funding. Fully 40% of the bill's costs go toward business tax breaks to help homebuilders--who, as one workers' union noted, "helped cause the mess by pushing subprime loans through their mortgage subsidiaries." According to the Joint Tax Committee, the bill offers $25 billion in tax cuts to banks and home builders, but just $3 billion in tax relief for homeowners. (Threatening to withhold campaign contributions--as the National Association of Homebuilders did this February--ain't classy, but evidently it works.)

Meanwhile this week, scandal-dogged Bush crony Alphonso Jackson--one of the key players entrusted to handle the housing crisis--announced his resignation as HUD secretary. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Paulson unveiled sweeping changes in the regulatory schema that oversees America's financiers, including a near-freeze on new regulations. The House Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill (backed by 220 House members and 55 Senators) to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco.

In hearings this week, lawmakers pushed oil executives to explain why they should continue receiving billions in tax breaks in a time of record gas prices and corporate profits. Bernanke made an appearance to emphasize that weakness in housing remains the greatest pall over the economy and defend the Feds' Bear Stearns bail-out, which he declined to classify as such. Yesterday, FAA inspectors testified that the agency had not only allowed uninspected planes to fly, but had threatened workers who complained about oversights.

On Tuesday, the State Department suspended exports of arms dealer AEY Inc., who was awarded a $298-million contract last January and has since been caught supplying troops with aged Chinese munitions--some up to 40 years old. Still to be addressed: why a 22-year-old with a criminal record was entrusted with millions in taxpayer money, anyway. Also this week, the White House's extensive involvement in torture was made repugnantly clear in the release of this 2003 brief, as well as Vanity Fair's latest issue.

Get Out the Pitchforks

If Wall Street thinks the public is angry at it now, wait till stories like this start getting wider play.

Forty Years Ago Today

(Full text)

You can listen to NPR's morning interview with Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles-- who was listening to King's speech just a few feet away--here.

Accountability for KBR?

Just three months after Jamie Leigh Jones' horrific account of Halliburton gang-rape was heard in Congress, Karen Houppert talks to Lisa Smith, a KBR contractor who alleges she was raped by a co-worker.

And thanks to KBR's secret arbitration process, like Jones, Smith's case may never see the light of a courthouse.

How to Get Healthcare Reform

The problems facing progressives in a post-Bush landscape are not problems of "what". We know more or less what has to happen: withdrawal from Iraq, closing gitmo, universal healthcare, a cap and trade program for carbon emissions. (I could go on). And there are technical policy debates about the best policy architecture to achieve each of these, but those debates are, I think, fairly secondary at this point. Because the major intellectual and political problem to untangle, for everyone from journalists like myself charged with chronicling the capital, to activists and organizers and staff members, is how. How, in the face of tremendous entrenched interests, in the wreckage of a system that has been discredited and gutted over the last seven years, how do you get actual, positive, progressive reform actually enacted.

This is why you should read Ezra Klein's piece in Slate about how to fix healthcare. Notice this:

On health care, the vital question for the next president isn't merely what to do but how to do it. Reform requires much more than a willing executive, as anyone who worked in the Clinton White House between the years of 1992 and 1994 can tell you. The problem is not just policy--Washington is stuffed with wonks and idea entrepreneurs eager to explain how to fix the health care system--it's politics. Without 60 votes in the Senate, you don't have a policy. You have a position. And nobody is going to get good, affordable medical care from a position paper. Sadly, there's a long history of executives coming in with a clear position paper explaining what they want to do to fix health care but no political strategy for how to achieve it. The next president need not repeat that mistake. He or she needs, first, a clear political approach--based, in part, around a solid understanding of the mistakes made by the Clintons in 1994--that's backed up by a solid set of policy principles.

This is exactly right. There are hard policy problems out there (the current crisis in financial markets is a good example), but there are so many problems that progressives have clear solutions to if we can solve the fundamental political meta-problem.

Service for Citizenship

Following up on Chris's post, a quick stat from the current Foreign Policy's military survey on a related theme: an overwhelming 78% of officers support granting citizenship to legal permanent residents in exchange for service.

And an equal percentage think that we really, really can't afford to wage another major war right now.

What To Do About Yoo

Regarding the recently declassified John Yoo torture memo, Atrios says:

I'm not entirely sure why there's something about John Yoo and our nation's fond embrace of torture which bothers me even more than do Dick Cheney and George Bush. Obviously they're the ones who have ultimate responsibility for all of this stuff, but there's something peculiarly evil about not just doing bad stuff but providing elaborate justifications for it.

I agree. But I think the other reason the Yoo situation is particularly enraging is that after he he left his job in the administration, he was rewarded with a tenured post at one of the nation's finest law schools. A perch from which he can continue to play a role in the nation's discourse just like any other legal academic. But at what point does advocating for, well, war crimes, get you barred from teaching law, or at the very least, being part of polite society?

There simply seems to be no recriminations for anyone who helped plan and execute this seven-year-long parade of moral abominations.

Dorgan vs. the FCC

These days, when Sen. Dorgan (D-North Dakota) makes the case that the FCC has moved from referee to cheerleader in the fight over media control -- "shaking the pom-poms for more media concentration" -- he's sounding increasingly prescient.

Yesterday, FCC chair Kevin Martin took to the stage before a cheering industry audience at a Las Vegas trade show with a variant of that message, namely: Corporations don't need any regulation, because we trust you. Responding to Verizon's recent statement that it supports open-access principles, Martin was quick to soothe any fears that the FCC might feel the need to actually enshrine the principle in policy. "In light of the industry's embrace of this more open approach, I think it's premature for the commission to adopt any other requirements across the industry," he said.

But Verizon's statement was just that--a statement. And like Comcast, which last week announced (after intense pressure) it would stop blocking BitTorrent software, Verizon has been chary with its guarantees of future nondiscrimination in its dealings.

The Senate Commerce Committee was slated to vote on Dorgan's attempt to overturn the FCC's recent efforts to promote media cross-ownership today; the vote has been rescheduled for April 24.

The Surge Is Over

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